What are we fighting for in education? It’s a valid question to think through because sometimes I think we get distracted and fight for the wrong things. For instance, why cannot I let go of the fact that I am not going to get a latte machine for the English department no matter how many times I bring it up in our leadership team meeting or hide it among the book orders? It’s time to let it go, let it go, turn away and slam the door (probably not the best strategy for me with my administrators). I am asking for the wrong thing.
Consider this statement from David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, which I highly recommend along with anything else written by him. Gladwell contends that “77% of Americans think that it makes more sense to use taxpayer money to lower class sizes than to raise teachers’ salaries.” Yet studies show that teacher effectiveness has more bearing on student success than class size. And I am not just saying this because I’m planning our summer vacation this week and need a little extra so we can stay on the beach and not two blocks away.
Does reducing class size by two or four students make as much of a difference as giving effective teachers a $10,000 raise? It’s a question to consider. Here’s another question: why are the classes with more academically motivated or gifted students capped at a significantly lower number than classes with struggling students? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Or what about this question: why are ineffective teachers allowed to stay in the classroom and why do parents put up with this? Again, it’s a question to consider as ineffective teachers cannot seem to be fired. Or why is education having such a difficult time attracting and training new teachers?
Many of these questions don’t have easy answers, and I’m not pretending they do. The issue, concerns, and questions surrounding standardized testing have impeded our focus on a myriad of other points that deserve our attention in education. While some consider questions a threat, educators, parents, and students must be committed to asking hard questions and wrestling through the conversations which move us forward in education.
And what better way to do this than over a skinny caramel latte made in Room 128?